July 26, 2012

Internet Giants Band Together To Lobby Washington

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Though they´re sometimes seen as enemies, Google and Facebook have seen it fit to put aside their differences to work together for pro-Internet legislation. Joining them are other Internet heavyweights, Amazon and eBay, creating The Internet Association, a lobbying organization, handling political and regulatory issues.

The plainly named Internet Association will be located in Washington, D.C. and, though they won´t officially open for business until September, the companies involved aren´t strangers to lobbying. Google and Facebook, for instance, have both admitted they spend large amounts of money on political lobbying in D.C.

Michael Beckerman, former advisor to the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives´ Energy and Commerce Committee, will act as president for this new joint venture, though he did not specify exactly which issues this new group will focus on. Beckerman did, however, confirm that the leading members of the new lobbying group are Amazon, eBay and Facebook.

Though Beckerman did not give specifics, these Internet companies have lobbied recently on issues such as cybersecurity, revenue repatriation, sales taxes for Internet companies and easier visa restrictions to hire engineers from other countries.

“We want to educate (lawmakers) about the impact of the Internet in their congressional districts,” said Beckerman in a statement.

“In September, we´ll do a full rollout and announce companies and announce policy positions.”

According to required filings, Google, maker of the world´s most popular search engine, has already spent $5.4 million on lobbying the US Congress and White House so far in 2012, representing a 90% year-over-year increase.

Google, as you may recall, has had to answer to federal agencies before for matters concerning anti-trust issues and privacy. Most recently, Google was the recipient of the largest fine from the FTC to the tune of $22.5 million for bypassing privacy settings in Apple´s mobile Safari web browser, allowing iPad and iPhone users´ web navigation to be tracked.

No stranger to having to answer for their own privacy issues, Facebook also boosted their lobbying budget by a whopping 200% in the second quarter, spending $960,000 on issues such as online privacy. Having recently gone public, Facebook also lobbied D.C. law makers on initial public offering issues during the most recent quarter. Facebook´s IPO didn´t quite live up to it´s $100 billion valuation, and its opening day festivities were marked with glitches and claims that their shares were priced too high.

Spending the least out of the other 4 organizations, eBay spent a paltry $400,600 during the last quarter on lobbying for issues such as air pollution, piracy, and revenue repatriation. They spent 10% less in the same quarter last year.

Finally, Amazon spent $690,000 on lobbying in the second quarter, lobbying for issues such as advertising, privacy and, of course, sales tax.

It´s easy to assume that The Internet Association will also fight against issues such as SOPA, PIPA and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, (ACTA) all recent pieces of legislation which incurred the wrath of many Internet business and organizations.